Truth Through Combat

Virtual Child Pornography

This story was in the news primarily in 2001 and 2002, when U.S. courts were debating over whether to strike down a law that prohibited the realistic depiction of children having sex even if those depictions were made without the involvement of children. The law was eventually struck down, and the U.S. currently lacks a law against this practice.

The ethical and political questions can be stated as follows:

  • Should the practice be banned?
  • Is the practice harmful to children? Obviously it can”t be directly harmful, but perhaps it can be argued to be indirectly harmful.
  • In the late 1970s, an argument was raised by feminists that went something like this: freedom of expression should be protected only when it does not cause direct harm to a population; pornography, however, harmed women by objectifying them and thereby weakening their status as equals; therefore, pornography should not be protected by the 1st Amendment. What do you think of this argument?
  • In general terms, should freedom of expression protect any expression that does not directly cause harm to others? Consider these examples: yelling fire in a crowded theater (when there is no fire); telling people to overthrow the government through violent means; urging violence against a group of people, or even an individual; threatening an individual with violence or harm to property; revealing state secrets, particularly during wartime; creating depictions of violent pornography or beastiality. Where would you draw the line?

Here are some stories and arguments:


Filed under: Bioethics, Uncategorized

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